Week 44 (Just A Band 4 aka Final Just a Band)

sex pistols

Artist: The Sex Pistols
Album: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Release Year: 1977

Overview

*warning* There is a bit of swearing in this album review but I think the Sex Pistols would have wanted me to swear as often as possible.

This week I listened to the Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. Notice that Never Mind is not spelled Nevermind. An entire generation of 90s kids were mislead into using the misspelling thanks to Nirvana. Even though my example is trivial it illustrates the point that the right album coming along at the right time in the right place can influence an entire generation. Never Mind the Bollocks is absolutely one those albums. It’s cultural and musical impact are unlikely to ever be repeated. Some of it is because of timing, but there’s also the fact that some of what happened is straight up batshit flipping crazy.

If you don’t know who the Sex Pistols are, that’s okay. They were formed over 40 years ago. For those who were around when the Sex Pistols were formed, you’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older. And now you’re older still. My condolences. The Sex Pistols are a punk band out of London, England. Excuse me. That’s not right. A more accurate statement would be they are THE punk band out of London, England. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alive in 1975 and I’m not from the UK. I can’t give a firsthand account of the before and after of this album being released. I can tell you that reading about the Sex Pistols has been interesting mind blowing and is worth your time a must read scenario. There is a Mount Everest worth of controversy created for a band that had broken up by 1978 after releasing their debut album in 1977. This combination of influence and controversy is what makes them incredibly fascinating even to this day.

I could spend this entire review talking about the band and their insane fuckery, but that’s not why you’re here. You came here for the music. Well I hope so. Otherwise, I should have written a biography instead of an album review.

The Review

What Works

  • The energy of this album is simply amazing. The Sex Pistols crank it up to 11 the entire time. The beginning track, Holidays in the Sun, starts out with the sound of an army marching. Then the bass drum kicks: Boom. Boom. Boom. Paul Cook, the Sex Pistols’ drummer, is providing a metronome for the military. Then four monster strikes of the guitar by Steve Jones. Within seconds, you know you are in for some serious shit to hit the fan. These guys are not screwing around. You pumped? Oh hell yeah, you fucking are.
  • Some people might not see punk music as having artistic value. My grandmother would probably call this album a bunch of rotten vicious noise. And she would be wrong. Very very wrong. Why? A multitude of reasons. But one that stuck out for me over and over while listening was the vocal phrasing for both the lead vocals and even the backup vocals.  John Lydon is a music god on this album. He knows exactly when to drag a word out and which parts of the word to drag out.  He often uses it to build up tension as the song progresses. Thus making it a perfect compliment to the rest of the instruments. But he can also shoot out vocals at a break neck speed thus ensuring the listener is never bored. I really don’t think this album would be as acclaimed as it is if it wasn’t for Lyndon’s masterful singing.
  • Lyrical content is another strong point of this album. Obviously, the songs questioning authority and society are setting up the future punk ethos.  It gets a bit more interesting when you start looking into all of the songs. One unexpectedly fascinating song is Bodies, which is an extremely graphic depiction of abortion. Many conservative groups have latched onto this song for its anti-abortion stance. Lyndon however contends it is neither pro-life or pro-choice (much like Ben Folds’ song, Brick, but with the word ‘fuck’ used quite a few more times). It’s more about capturing the emotions involved in song form than trying to take any kind of stance or convince somebody what their view should be. (I find that absolutely refreshing in today’s social climate) That’s art as fuck, right? Sex Pistols are far deeper than what your grandmother would have led you to believe.

What Doesn’t

  • The energy of this album, while amazing, is completely overwhelming. I know what you are thinking. I’m just getting old. Well, guess what? I am! But the Sex Pistols felt overwhelming even in my junior year of college when I first gave them a serious listen during my pop punk phase when I was trying to find out where punk came from. This is a great album to listen to a couple tracks every once in a while to get yourself pumped up. The blitz style guitar work alone should do that just fine.  However, even better, this is an album to sit down and listen to the record in one continuous sitting so you can fully appreciate it. What shouldn’t you do with this album? Listen to it on repeat for an entire week. Negan could have easily used this album to break Daryl on the Walking Dead. [ed. how long has this review been delayed?] Daryl might have been jamming to it in the beginning but eventually he would be begging for mercy.

Conclusion

This is isn’t an album for everyone but it is an album everyone should listen to because of the influence it has had on music and culture. I seriously do consider this a historic document of tremendous value because of the impact it had that still can be felt today. Never Mind the Bollocks is so incredibly well crafted and absolutely deserves any praise it gets. It’s never going to be in my regular rotation though. It’s too much for me.

Reviewer’s Note

This review is about 29 months overdue.  The review before that was 12 months overdue. To those who have been patiently waiting for my next review, you are amazing. And I’m sorry everything fell apart. I will not continue listening to anymore albums on repeat for a week at a time . Whenever I’ve explained to people what I did for this site, I feel like I am explaining the ramblings of a mad man. I still want to write reviews in the future of albums that interest me for this site but not this way.  It’s too much. In the past 29 months I have listened to tons of amazing music so I have no shortage of things to talk about.

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Spotify
Google Play Music
Amazon Music
iTunes

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
Wikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

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Week 36 Review

The Offspring – Americana (1998)

TheOffspringAmericanaalbumcover

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.85 out of 5 stars album. I’ve been encouraged by multiple people in my life that I need to give the Offspring a serious listen. My editor has been a strong supporter of this effort over the past decade. Her efforts have made me a fan of The Offspring but that serious listen didn’t happen until now with PLTAM. And I’m completely blown away by Americana. There is much more here to love than what I initially expected.

Artist BackgroundThe Offspring have their origins in the early 80s, but they didn’t get their current name until 1986 and didn’t release their first album until 1989. The band was made up of Dexter Holland (vocals, guitar), Noodles (lead guitar), Greg K. (bass) and Ron Welty (drums) at the time of recording. Their breakout album, Smash, didn’t happen until 1994 when it sold 16M copies. It set a record for independent record sales with their label at the time, Epitaph. In fact, it is currently 6X platinum because it still sells reasonably well to this day. With their new success, they eventually moved to the major label, Columbia. It was a messy and controversial transition that is still talked about. I can’t say I disapprove of the move, though, I’m sure there are many punk purists that will never forgive them. But I hope none of them would deny Offspring’s importance in making punk relevant to the mainstream again in the 90s. I think I’m going to end it here as far as covering the history of the band but I would like to add that the Offspring have been incredibly supportive of the digital music revolution. They often tried to make their music available online even when it pissed off the record executives. They also sold Napster T-shirts on their site and donated the profits to Napster. They were doing this when other musicians like Metallica were having complete shit fits about Napster and college students with broadband connections. I absolutely respect them for seeing the bigger picture.

Album Background: Americana is a punk rock album released in 1998. It runs about 44 minutes in length over 13 tracks. It is their fifth album and best charting album having reached number two on the charts. It’s not their best selling, though, as that honor belongs to Smash by a significant margin. The Offspring tried to go back to a more traditional sound with this album as their previous album, Ixnay on the Hombre was kind of experimental and not as well received. Despite the pressures to rebound, Noodles said Americana was very easy to record and this seems accurate as it was recorded in half the time of Ixnay at 18 months instead of 36. Considering again that this is their highest charting album in their discography, I would they say they couldn’t ask for a better rebound. Americana let them show the world that Smash was not a fluke.

I try to keep these album backgrounds short, but there is one more thing I think is worth talking about. The Jerry Springer Show was considered a key influence for the album. Many of the songs are considered short stories of American life rather than satirical views of your average American. It’s an important distinction as I originally viewed the album as mainly satirical after listening to it. One of the songs that was clearly influenced by the show is Why Don’t You Get a Job which covers the topic of relationship leeches. What’s a more interesting influence on the song is the Beatles’ classic Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Some people said the Offspring ripped off the Beatles with this song but it sounds more like a similar style of music rather than any kind of ripoff. To put this into perspective of what ripping off a song actually means, let’s compare this to the recent Sam Smith/Tom Petty debacle. In that case, Petty was financially compensated and rightfully so. I’m not aware of the Beatles pursuing any legal action and my bet is because they really don’t have a case. Having “I know I’ve heard that before somewhere…” pop into your head after listening to a new song is one of the most fun aspects of being a music nerd.

Favorite Track: I wasn’t in love with every track on the album, but I really liked enough of them that this was not an easy decision for me. However, I’m going with the title track: Americana. So why did this stick out for me? I love a good intro and Americana excels at this. The first thirteen seconds are nothing but the intense sparse beats of a lone drum set. Then a guitar adds to the slow, steady build up followed by some light vocalizations. It’s over a minute before you hear the first lyric. After the first line, everything kicks into hyper gear as the drums and guitars go full throttle. The lyrics perfectly complement the intense delivery of the instruments with classic punk social angst and the occasional swear words.  In this case, the phrase “fuck you” is expertly placed in multiple context to take advantage of the unique flexibility of the F word. The lyrics mostly concentrate on selfish attitudes of the citizens found in the main character’s dystopian visions. Slowly, he is realizing it is, in fact, a dystopian reality.

What Works: 

  • Multifarious I fell in love with this album before I even reached the highway on my Monday morning commute. When I reached a stoplight, I had to look down on my music player to see if the first song was really that short. It wasn’t. Have You Ever is actually made up of sections so distinct that you think a new song started up. For a band to try that on the opening song with a length of only four minutes, seriously impressed me. I knew right there this week was going to be highly enjoyable. Offspring takes this concept even further with the final track, Pay The Man. This song was supposed to be on their previous album, Ixnay on Hombre, but it was so different that it wasn’t a good fit. The song has a Saharan feel to it and is considered to be far more acid rock than punk rock. It has several distinct progressions over eight minutes with no repetition tying them together. They tried to play it at a concert once. The reaction from the crowd was mostly confusion and musings of how high the band must be right now. The experiment was a failure, which is sad because I would absolutely love to see the song played live.
  • Noodles Of all the members, Noodles has caught my attention most as he was an elementary school janitor at the time he joined the band and is rumored to have been brought into the band because he was the only one old enough to buy alcohol at the time. Also noteworthy is that he was stabbed at an anti-nuclear rally early in the band’s career. He has a distinct look with thick black glasses and skunk dyed hair. His aggressive playing style is a key component of the Offspring’s sound and absolutely critical to their success. My editor also love Noodles and now I understand why.
  • Speed Dexter does most of his writing in his car. He’ll write stuff down when he’s stuck in traffic jams and such. It’s kind of funny that while he’s going so slow that he’s able to see gum clearly on the highway, he’s writing lyrics that are inspiring drivers worldwide to get speeding tickets. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need for speed quite as much as I did while listening to Americana on my daily commute. And it’s great because each member of the band contributes to this overwhelming feeling to push on the gas pedal. Have You Ever, Staring at the Sun, The Kids Aren’t Alright, Walla Walla, Americana and of course, No Brakes are fantastic songs to get your heart pounding. I don’t condone speeding, but I do wonder how many times the phrase “Sorry officer, but I was listening to Offspring’s Americana.” has been uttered by a driver after they’ve been pulled over.

What Doesn’t:

  • Feelings I hated this song every single time I heard it on the album. It’s a punk cover of the 1975 pop song, Feelings. Feelings is considered one of the worst songs ever recorded. There are really two main reasons I hate this song. The first is that the album is flawless up until it’s played. Worse yet the song is right after one of Offspring’s masterpieces, The Kids Aren’t Alright, which is about the destruction of teenagers whole fall through the cracks of society as they approach adulthood. The other reason I hate the song is that it magnifies any and all weaknesses the band has. It’s almost like they wanted to highlight their flaws and give their detractors as much ammunition as possible when they put it on the album. If somebody wants to say Dexter is crappy singer, it’s pretty easy to make your case thanks to Feelings unfortunately.

In Conclusion: Americana is a worthwhile listen. I enjoyed this album all week. Offspring does a great job of mixing it up throughout the album with good pop sensibilities and creative song progressions to produce a memorable punk rock album. Just please be careful if you plan on listening to it in your car. I’m not paying for anybody’s speeding ticket.

Music Video Links:
The Offspring – The Kids Aren’t Alright (Official Video)
The Offspring – Why Don’t You Get A Job (Official Video)
The Offspring – She’s Got Issues (Official Video)
The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) (Official Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site